Washington carried a 13-game point streak into Friday night's home game with the Montreal Canadiens, but the Caps have been a little wobbly this week, extending their streak by splitting a pair of shootout decisions, both in games in which they were arguably outplayed over 65 minutes.
The streak came to a full stop on Friday in a 5-2 loss to the Habs, who opened up a 4-0 lead on Washington with a four-goal outburst in the middle frame. But even during a scoreless first, it was apparent that the Caps didn't have their 'A' game on this night.
"We looked at our chances for and against, and didn't love the period," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of the game's first 20 minutes. "They were able to get some opportunities, and we lost some puck battles, did some things structurally incorrect, and were able to allow them to get - for my liking - too many opportunities."
But Washington was far worse in the second, when the Habs lit them up for four goals on eight shots in just over eight minutes.
The barrage began with a Caps turnover high in the Washington zone, creating a situation where Montreal center Phillip Danault hung down low and was behind every red-sweatered player on the ice. Tomas Tatar spotted Danault and fed him, putting him in a 1-on-1 with Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov. Danault had enough time and space to deke, and he beat Samsonov with a backhander to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 6:22 of the second.
Before the midpoint of the period, the Habs doubled their lead. After winning an offensive zone draw, Montreal worked the puck around the Caps' end, and Danault and Ben Chiarot combined to set up Shea Weber for a one-timer from the left half wall, and Weber's drive beat Samsonov on the short side at 9:16.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 15
Montreal's fourth line was the next to get in on the action. In the midst of an offensive zone shift, Jordan Weal carried from below the goal line to high in the zone, looping around to the opposite side, the left side. From the left circle, he issued a backhander that beat Samsonov on the far side, extending the Habs' lead to 3-0 at 11:41.
Less than a minute later, Montreal went on the power play, the first man advantage opportunity for either side. The Caps killed it off, but seconds after it expired, Nick Suzuki's centering feed glanced off the stick of Washington defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler and into the net, making it a 4-0 game at 14:42.
"I think they just had the momentum on their side," says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. "After the first goal, they scored another one and we just couldn't execute the play. We made lots of mistakes and it was not our best period. We didn't play our game at all."
Early in the third, the Caps broke the goose egg on their first power play chance of the night. It was a typical extra-man tally; Nicklas Backstrom to John Carlson to Ovechkin, and from his left dot office, the captain slung a shot past Carey Price on the far side to make it 4-1.
Even in the occasional game where they fall down by multiple goals this season, the Caps have displayed resilience and they did so again on Friday against the Habs.
Late in the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov got loose behind the Montreal defense, and Tom Wilson sprung him on a breakaway. Kuznetsov beat Price to make it a 4-2 game with 4:22 remaining.
Price made a couple of good stops immediately after that goal to keep the Caps at arm's length, and Tatar scored into a vacant Washington net with 2:31 remaining to account for the 5-2 final, the Capitals' first regulation loss in more than a month, and their first regulation loss to an Eastern Conference team this season.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 15
"I really liked our game tonight from start to finish," says Canadiens coach Claude Julien. "We had to weather - or not necessarily weather - but we knew they were going to have a good start, and I thought we started off well, too. But they had a couple of really good scoring chances in the first 10 minutes that Carey made big saves on and kept us in there.
"The goal was to come out of the first period either tied or ahead, so we managed to do that. Eventually, we just kind of took over."